The family of late NFL receiver Vincent Jackson announced Thursday that he has been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy – the degenerative disease of the brain more commonly known as CTE.
Jackson’s family donated his brain to researchers after the 38-year-old man was found dead in a hotel room in Tampa, Florida in February. The family suspected that the concussion effects of Jackson’s footballing career may have contributed to his death.
“There is still a lot to understand about CTE, and education is the key to prevention,” Jackson’s widow Lindsey said in a statement.
“The conversation around this topic needs to be more widespread, and our family is hopeful that others will feel comfortable and supported when they talk about CTE moving forward.”
According to a press release, researchers at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank diagnosed Jackson with stage 2 CTE, which has been associated with behavioral symptoms such as depression, paranoia, substance abuse and impulsiveness. Stage 4 is the most severe.
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The announcement of Jackson’s CTE diagnosis came less than 48 hours after a similar announcement regarding fellow former NFL player Phillip Adams. Adams, who in April shot dead six people and committed suicide, also had stage 2 CTE.
Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who has examined both brains, said in a statement that diagnoses like Jackson’s “should no longer surprise us.”
“These results have become commonplace,” McKee, who is also the director of the Boston University CTE Center, said in a statement. “What is surprising is that so many football players have died with CTE and so little is being done to make football, at all levels, safer by limiting the number of repetitive subconcussive hits.”
Although CTE can only be diagnosed after death, evidence of the disease has been found in the brains of more than 300 former NFL players to date. And a 2019 Boston University study found a link between the number of years spent playing the sport and the odds of contracting CTE.
Jackson played football for 23 years, including 12 years in the NFL. He was a three-time Pro Bowler with the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, known both for his physique on the court and his penchant for charity off the field. The Buccaneers have nominated him for the Walter Payton league man of the year award four times in five years.
Jackson turned to business after retiring from the NFL in 2018, investing in restaurants and real estate, among other projects. But his family later told investigators they believed he was also suffering from alcoholism.
Authorities said Jackson stayed in a Homewood Suites on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida for more than a month before he was found dead on February 15. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson’s family had reported him as missing within a week before he was found, but he was later located at the hotel by law enforcement. Officers carried out a welfare check on February 12 – a Friday – and subsequently rescinded the missing persons report.
This weekend, hotel staff saw Jackson “sitting on the couch, slumped” in his room on Saturday and Sunday, but believed he was asleep, according to a preliminary report from the medical examiner’s office. Staff called 911 on Monday when a cleaning lady found him in the same position.
The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to release Jackson’s self-espionage report next week.
Contribution: Josh Peter